Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Mexican Cartel Member With U.S.-Made Javelin Anti-Tank Missile -- It's Another Type of Missile

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Mexican Cartel Member With U.S.-Made Javelin Anti-Tank Missile -- It's Another Type of Missile Something Else

Does a video on Mexico's Milenio Television channel show a Mexican cartel member carrying a U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missile? No, that's not true: Raytheon Technologies, which makes the Javelin, told Lead Stories that the video shows another type of shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon.

The claim appeared in a post on Twitter (archived here) by Mexican journalist Azucena Uresti on May 31, 2023. The description for the video said:

#AzucenaALas10 | En #Tamaulipas, un presunto miembro del Cártel del Golfo fue grabado portando una de las armas más exclusivas y poderosas, un 'javelín', que ha sido utilizado durante la invasión a Ucrania con un valor de entre 20 mil y 60 mil dólares

This is what the tweet says in English, according to a translation provided by Google:

#AzucenaALas10 | In #Tamaulipas, an alleged member of the Gulf Cartel was recorded carrying one of the most exclusive and powerful weapons, a 'javelin', which has been used during the invasion of Ukraine with a value of between 20,000 and 60,000 dollars.

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Mexico weapon tweet.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Fri Jun 2 16:14:22 2023 UTC)

The social media post says the weapon seen in the video is the powerful anti-tank weapon officially known as the FGM-148 Javelin. But Chris Johnson, senior director of global media relations at Raytheon, said in a June 2, 2023, email to Lead Stories that the weapon shown is not their missile:

This image does not show a Javelin, which is quite a bit larger. We can't verify exactly what it is, but it appears to be an AT-4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon. But that's just a guess based on the image.

Raytheon provided this image of the Javelin to Lead Stories for comparison:


(Source: Provided by Raytheon Technologies on Fri Jun 2 2023)

The United States has supplied the Javelin to the Ukrainian military to use against Russia's invasion. The Javelins' guided-missile capabilities and accuracy reportedly have taken a huge toll on Russian tanks. The Mexican TV channel suggests that the powerful weapon has now made its way to Mexico's cartels.

In a June 2, 2023, email, Alexander Mitchell, director of external relations for the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, D.C. non-profit, told Lead Stories that he's certain that the clip does not show a Javelin. Mitchell wrote:

The weapon in the video is clearly an AT-4, not a Javelin. AT-4s were developed by Sweden but have been licensed for production in many countries. The AT-4 is an unguided light anti-armor weapon, whereas the Javelin is a more advanced anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). ISW has observed no evidence of any Javelins or any other weapons being 'smuggled' from Ukraine into Mexico.

Mark Cancian, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and a senior adviser with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, another Washington, D.C. think tank, agreed that the weapon seen in the video is the AT-4, not the Javelin. He continued in a June 2, 2023, email to Lead Stories:

That's a very powerful weapon for a cartel to have, but it is unguided, a NATO equivalent to the Russian RPG. Range about 300 m [meters].

In a separate June 2, 2023, email, Cancian added:

For reference, the cost of a Javelin [system], which is guided and long-range, is about $200,000 each.

The last procurement of AT-4s was $2,800 each.

Each Javelin missile is reported to cost tens of thousands of dollars by itself. The launch system is reusable.

The AT-4 is not used by the United States exclusively. It is widely available around the world. The Army Technology website reports:

Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Iraq, Ireland, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Taiwan, Sweden, the UK, the US and Venezuela are among the countries that have deployed the weapon in their artilleries.

An image of a version of the AT-4 used by the U.S. military, (M136 AT4) can be seen below:


(Source: Provided by U.S. Department of Defense on Fri Jun 2 2023)

In another June 2, 2023, email to Lead Stories, RAND Corporation Defense Analyst Mark Hvizda said the weapon seen in the first 58 seconds of the video appears to be an AT-4, which looks much different than the Javelin and has far greater capabilities. He continued:

The M136 AT4 is an 84-mm unguided recoilless weapon, whereas the FGM-148 Javelin is an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). This means that the Javelin uses a Command Launch Unit (CLU) to lock-on to a target before the user fires the weapon. An AT-4 is purely unguided.

The final third of the social media video uses stock footage of what appears to be U.S. soldiers testing the Javelin; again showing the differences in the two types of missiles.

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about the Russian-Ukrainian war can be found here.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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